Monthly Cultural Corner - March 2024

March 3, 2024

Cultural Spotlight- Anthony Melgar

Hi, my name is Anthony Melgar, I am currently the Program Manager for the Prevention and Aftercare program in Lancaster. I have been in this position for almost 3 years now, which is when I started at Penny Lane Centers back in 2021.

I identify with Mexican and Guatemalan Culture as my mother is from Mexico and my father is from Guatemala.

I am a born and raised Angelino true and true. Born in Inglewood, lived in San Fernando valley a while and ultimately finished growing up in Lancaster California. I’ve lived my whole life in LA county, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I grew up listening to Corridos and cumbias. Anytime this music came on at a family party it could go either of two ways people would sing along or the family would get up and start dancing.

For Mexican Food I would say Tacos de adobada are my favorite. These tacos are marinated in an Adobo which makes it red and slowly cooked in a revolving Broiler. The meat comes out super crispy and paired with a spicy Salsa and some lime, just brings tears of joy to anyone that tries them. I would also include Hilachas, which is a Guatemalan dish of Shredded meat and potato stew. The meat and potatoes are slowly cooked in a sauce, that helps absorb the spices and flavors. Traditionally served with a little white rice and a Boli (French roll type bread) topped with sour cream and cheese, definitely a comfort dish. I grew up with my mother making the Hilachas for large get-togethers and family gatherings. I 100% associate the dish with a good time with my family.

I love Day of the Dead!!! This Holiday that embraces death and allows us to celebrate our loved ones that have passed is something special. Family gets together, brings food and drinks, and make altars for those who passed to honor them. It’s nice to know that we will be remembered after we pass with a colorful and festive time instead of a somber moment.

Living between two cultural worlds doesn’t mean you have to pick one. Being of Mexican and Guatemalan decent, has allowed me to enjoy the beauty of both cultures and their foods and traditions. They might have their differences but if there is one thing the remains true is we use food and music to bring family together.

Growing my family would go to Guatemala for New year’s almost every year, where we would buy an insane number of fireworks directly from the factory. Mind you, these fireworks have way more kick than the ones sold in the US with the ATF warning on them. Traditionally, at midnight, everyone lights fireworks, and the night sky is lit up with an array of lights, followed by music and food. The last time my family did this was about 10 years ago, and I’ve got to say that we put on a pyrotechnic show that would give the local city’s show a run for the money!

Our approach to family gatherings is that anyone and everyone is welcome.  Everyone is fed and almost always leaves with some food to go. It’s always about spending time in community that is lively and brings joy. There is always music and food otherwise it’s not a party.  

My upbringing and culture have taught me that community is important, appreciating the little time we have is a must, and you should not be afraid to get your hands dirty to overcome an obstacle. Penny Lane is a place that shares and embraces community, which is demonstrated day to day and at all levels. I’ve seen a culture in which everyone, regardless of position, is in the trenches with you, ringing true the saying “We are in this together.  

Other than knowing we push through the hard work; my culture has taught me that even during hard work you can still have a good time. I have had the pleasure of working on various community events, that took a lot of preparation, negotiation, and person power but in the end, everyone has a great time. Seeing the community enjoy the fruits of our labor is a reward of its own. When the community benefits, we all benefit.

-Anthony Melgar, Penny Lane Centers

Check out some more photos below!